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July 2, 2004 9:49 PM   Subscribe

How many different species live on or in the average human body? New Scientist’s Last Word is often an interesting place to go...
posted by Termite (13 comments total)
might want to repost that first link.
posted by Hackworth at 9:55 PM on July 2, 2004

Damn. Here’s the correct link!
posted by Termite at 10:27 PM on July 2, 2004

*all 6 quadrillion of me run screaming from the room*
posted by quonsar at 10:50 PM on July 2, 2004

all the bacteria living on the external surface of a human would fit into a medium-sized pea

is this good news or bad?
posted by mr.marx at 11:19 PM on July 2, 2004

Microbiology On-line
"Human adults excrete their own weight in faecal bacteria every year." Yummm.

Also take a look here for some bacterial fun if you're into solving medical mysteries.
posted by degnarra at 11:23 PM on July 2, 2004

is this good news or bad?

I'd be more concerned with the soda can's worth of bacteria actually living inside me...
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:49 PM on July 2, 2004

When I die, I'm taking them all with me!
posted by Salmonberry at 11:56 PM on July 2, 2004

... but could we survive without them? Imagine a man completely cleaned of all bacteria: would he be able to digest his own food? Perhaps he’d drop dead, rapidly infected by one hundred kinds of lethal bacteria; I’ve heard that the benign/harmless bacteria in us protect us against more agressive bacteria species.
posted by Termite at 7:28 AM on July 3, 2004

They do. But it's still nasty to think about.
posted by degnarra at 7:39 AM on July 3, 2004 amoeba that just loves the warmth that it finds inside your skull, reproducing in its millions until you drop down dead.

So that explains this nasty headache I've been having..... I just thought it was a hangover.
posted by spilon at 10:01 AM on July 3, 2004

I think the estimate on the number of species is a bit low. I think Discover had an interesting article a few months back about how a microbiologist used a method for estimating the number of species in a given space using DNA analysis and upped the estimate by a few hundered. Only about half of the species inhabiting the human body have been catalogued.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:34 AM on July 3, 2004

... but could we survive without them?

i dont think so tim.... we already survive with them
posted by Satapher at 11:11 PM on July 3, 2004

The numbers from the '69 study seem low. More recent things I've seen suggested something like 20% of the cells in the average body were foreign organisms. Ultimately, I don't think anyone really knows.
posted by rudyfink at 4:52 AM on July 6, 2004

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